We’re Still Unelectable… June 8, 2011

We’re Still Unelectable…

A new survey conducted by Pew Research for the People & the Press indicates that 61% of Americans would be less likely to vote for a candidate if that person didn’t believe in a god.


Among these options, anyway, that makes us the least electable group of people.

Americans are more likely to vote for someone who is Mormon, gay, divorced, or had an affair…

Being rational is still a liability in America.

(via Why Evolution Is True)

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  • Mic

    I wonder where Muslim and Jewish are in the poll…

  • Adam

    The hopeful number is the third one, in which 33% of people believe it doesn’t matter. 1/3rd of Americans supposedly don’t care if a candidate is non-religious.

  • Tom

    Wow… 61% of Americans would be less likely to vote for someone who does “not believe in God”?

    That’s sad and bigoted.

  • Matt H

    I was riding on a cloud all morning, and now I’m in a bad mood.

  • mihoda

    I bet a black, gay, mormon would get more votes.

  • Roxane

    Yet I’ve wondered for years how many politicians really are non-theists, deep down. When I was growing up, before The Great Evangelical Dumbing-Down, most national politicians were Episcopalians, which at the time included a lot of people who probably would nowadays be UU. Certainly when I hear people on the left advocate the National Day of Prayer, I imagine it’s through clenched teeth, and because they know there is a political price for opposing it.

  • Gordon

    I think they need a test question: “Would you vote for an adult who admitted to having an imaginary friend?”

  • Miko

    Actually, being rational is a huge advantage in America… for everything except politics.

    But we should keep in mind that no rational person would want to be a politician anyway, so it’s not a huge problem.

  • Travis Kline

    That is sad – people of faith seem to not care what you believe in as long as you believe something.

  • MikeW

    A positive take away from this is that more than 75% of people don’t care if a candidate is a woman, black or hispanic. So at least racism and sexism are down.

  • Craig Hansen

    To be fair, pretty much everything on there *shouldn’t* be a reason to *not* vote for somebody, with the possible exception of those who are married and can’t keep in in their pants. People are just *more* bigoted towards atheists than other groups, that’s all.

  • We are not going to be voted Mr or Ms Popularity any time soon.

  • coyotenose

    Although the number is low, I find it interesting that 4% of those polled would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had served in the military. It seems to me that politicians who have served and witnessed combat or its effects are, on average, less likely to be hawkish. What’s a reason someone would oppose a candidate for being a veteran?

  • Matto the Hun

    I think the real take-away from this is that Christians are still an unfairly persecuted group in the U.S.

  • JD

    I’m surprised that the “family” block lets divorce slide as much as they do. I think McCain probably qualified for some Christian definitions of marital infidelity (basically getting a divorce just for the sake of marrying someone else he already picked out) but that bit was conveniently ignored. He was also a lousy pilot, last of his class and had crashed half a dozen planes, several his fault, but the hawks didn’t care.

  • MadScutter

    My favorite is that apparently you are better off being a stoner than a Mormon.

  • Steve

    I’m surprised that the “family” block lets divorce slide as much as they do

    Where have you been? There are countless examples of that kind of hypocrisy

    Take Newt Gingrich. Married three teams, cheated on the first and divorced her when she was in the hospital with cancer, then married the woman he had the affair with. Cheated on that wife with a staffer over two decades younger, but at the very same time tried to impeach Bill Clinton over his alleged affair. Married that one too

  • T-Rex

    I’d like to know where and who gets polled? I’ve never participated in any of their polls, nor do I know anyone who has participated in these polls. I put very little “faith” in polls anyways. So in short, who give s a *uck what these polls say?

  • Dane

    Its obviously depressing to know that its more important in politics to believe in god than have any elected office experience at all, but I don’t think this is great evidence for atheists being much more hated than other minorities. Even with heavy brainwashing and social pressures religion is still a personal choice at least when compared to things like race and imo ultimately a candidates personal choices should definitely have weight in elections and in turn things they cant control should have less.

    I know I would definitely be more likely to vote for a candidate who was less religious while ignoring race and sexual orientation and I don’t think this view would be much less likely in a group of atheists as the current view among religious people is.

  • Craig Hansen

    We could take a page out of the Mormon playbook and find an uninhabited bit of land and create our own state. What we need is our own Brigham Young. Hemant, how good are you at leading wagon trains?

  • Nordog

    We could take a page out of the Mormon playbook and find an uninhabited bit of land and create our own state.

    Siberia maybe? Oh, that’s been tried already.

    Seriously though, if my choice is between a candidate who claims to share my faith but disagrees with me on all the issues, and another candidate who claims to be an atheist by agrees with me on the issues, I would vote for the atheist in a heartbeat.

    Put another way, I would vote for S.E. Cupp against Nancy Pelosi every time.

  • zach

    Americans are more likely to vote for someone who is Mormon, gay, divorced, or had an affair…

    Really? Does gay have to be thrown in with those? I know you’re not implying that, but it feels like you think that either it’s totally incredulous that gay people are more acceptable than atheists, or that gays aren’t rational. I can’t decide.

  • Trace

    Less likely to support: Black 3%, Hispanic 11% Really?

  • 23 years ago, I posed this question to my high school American Government class students: Who would be more likely to be nominated by a political party for president (all other things being equal), between a white female, and a black male. We now know the answer to that question! Let’s hope the same question can be put out someday between say, a wack-job evangelical, fundamnetalist Christian, and an atheist-and that the atheist gets the votes. Of course I am dreaming here. Then again, how many African-Americans never thought they would see the election of a black President?

  • Elechka

    Haha, who the heck are the 2% that are more likely to vote for someone because they had an extramarital affair?

  • How many politicians do you think might claim to be of a religion to entice voters?

  • Rich Wilson


    Married that one too

    Exactly! He married all of them! He loves the institution of marriage so much, he wanted to experience it three times!

  • J Cole

    I wonder where a Scientologist would rank on the poll?

  • cat

    Polls like this better track explicit prejudice than implicit prejudice. They do not actually give you good results as to what people would do in the given situation, rather, they track how socially acceptable people perceive explicitly stating these prejudices is. To give an analogy, if you ask people if they are less likely to hire a black or latino person, few will admit it, but when you actually do a hiring study, very high amounts of people do it.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    @coyotenose- Given the military’s captive audience faith pushing on top of the other institutionalized brainwashing, I’m surprised so few people wouldn’t vote for veterans.

  • Blasphemous_Kansan

    I Don’t have time to scan the article right now, but can someone explain why the totals, including the ‘DK’ column, don’t add up to 100 on many of the rows (including the ‘Do Not Believe in God’ row)?

  • Blasphemous_Kansan

    Nevermind, I realized that the 100 is referring to the total percentage, not to the ‘N’ value.

    Carry on.

  • JJR

    So Anthony Weiner, for example, could still easily defeat any atheist challenger who was otherwise identical on positions, etc…nice.

  • Ami Silberman

    How accurately does this poll represent how people vote, versus how they claim to vote?
    Since 1972, at least, the presidency has been won by the person with the less impressive military record most of the time (Nixon vs. McGovern, Clinton vs. Bush, Clinton vs. Dole, Bush vs. Gore, Bush vs. Kerry, Obama vs. McCain), and in many of those cases it was a dramatic difference in record.

  • Delcycer

    I’m afraid that the numbers might be totally inaccurrate–I’m pretty sure that “no difference” category includes a lot of hateful bigots who didn’t have the balls to say so, even anonymously.

    I wonder what the 24 hour news cycle would make of an athiest presidential candidate?

  • coyotenose

    But people aren’t generally aware of that, are they? I just would have thought that the number would be more like 1% or less.

  • MikeB

    I’ll bet we’ve had numerous presidents who actually were athiests. All that is required is that you say you believe in a/the god. We Americans live in a country where hypocrisy will get you all the way to the top.

  • Vanessa

    I’m surprised by the homosexual numbers. 62% said it doesn’t matter? I’d like to see what that number is when actually put to the test.

  • 51% are less likely to support someone who hasn’t held office. Interesting to see what that number was like a year ago…

  • Larry Meredith


    That’s pretty much what makes this poll pretty much useless.
    People are much more judgmental of these things when voting (or hiring as cat pointed out) than when speaking to a pollster.

    Plus these definitions are really vague.

    more/less likely to vote for a candidate that’s gay? Well… how gay are we talking? Flamboyantly parading down main street in silver body paint and a thong kinda gay? Or just socially normal and keeping your sexual desires to yourself kinda gay? There’s a big difference.

    more/less likely to vote for a candidate that’s atheist? how atheist? Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens raging against religion kinda militant atheist? Or just accepting of all religions and cultural backgrounds and keeping personal beliefs to yourself kind of accommodationist atheist? Again, big difference.

    It depends on how actively you are fighting for that demographic. Are you all out on women’s rights? Strongly backing up black minorities? Actively supporting marijuana legalization?

    Personally, I think the reason Obama crushed Hilary is because Hilary was very strongly behind women’s rights and equality. It’s not a bad position to take, but it a position that doesn’t speak to as many people. If Obama was showing strong support and activism for the black community, he wouldn’t have made it.

  • chicago dyke

    who here is sorry to be at the bottom of this list? we’re talking about a group of people who “elected’ GWBush, twice. and who continue to vote for “democrats” who think eliminating the social safety net to ‘save’ bankers and corporatists is a good idea. whatever. i’m proud to be hated by most amurkins, frankly. they aren’t the kind of company i keep.

    the racial differences intrigue me also. anyone care to explain?

  • There is one measure of honesty here: extramarital affair. Several measures of dependability: Military service; previous work experience. Some measures of social sameness (the candidate is like us): gender; skin colour; divorce; extramarital affair; religion; drug use; sexuality.

    What those surveyed are saying is that they prefer to vote for people who are most like them. They are voting for their own biases rather than on the candidate’s ability. In an ideal world I would vote for a candidate who was experienced at doing the job or a similar job given that standing for election is comparable to a job interview in some ways. A candidates religious views should be irrelevant but I must admit that I would be disinclined to vote for a fundamentalist, creationist or other crackpot. It doesn’t much matter to me if they are a Mormon nutter, an Islamic nutter, or a Protestant nutter. I’m not going to vote for a nutter.

    Similarly race, gender and sexuality are irrelevant unless the candidate makes a big deal of it. If they do so then they are standing on a single policy and I prefer a balance to my politicians.

  • I’m going to have to call Bullshit on this one. The Myth That Atheists are Unelectable – http://bit.ly/lO955d

  • qwertyuiop

    35% will support a business executive?

    And they wonder and complain when their government continually supports business interests. Bailouts, anyone?

  • Rich Wilson

    @T Rex
    It’s fine to be skeptical of a poll’s methodology, and to think deeply about what the results mean, but polls ARE empirical evidence.

    As for who was asked, it’s pretty standard for a poll to disclose that http://people-press.org/2011/06/02/about-the-survey-50/

  • tinker

    I have never voted for a ‘liberal’ candidate but, if a candidate stood up and said ‘I do not believe there is an imaginary being looking down and answering my prayers’, I would vote for that person in a heartbeat.
    Penn-Teller ticket in 2012!!

  • David Waldock

    Nice to see the researchers using inappropriate clinical language to describe lesbians and gay men, though. And what about bisexual or transgender?

    Behaviours are homosexual, people are human and identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer etc… For example if a man has ever kissed a girl in a sexual way, but has otherwise only ever had sexual contact with men, that kiss means he’s no longer “a homosexual”. Therefore, you might use the phrase “she had homosexual relations with Mary”, but not “she is homosexual”.

    I also object because the language was invented to describe clinical abnormalities, and whilst accepting language changes, “homosexual” still carries pejorative connotations of deviation. It also reduces the person to a single characteristic (I noted that people who have had extra-marital affairs aren’t described as “love cheats”.) Why not ask “is in a same-sex relationship” or “identifies as lesbian or gay”?

    It’s possible that this is more a reflection of language in the UK than the USA, and it’s possible that the language used reflects the way in which LGBTs are viewed in the USA, but that is no reason to continue pejorative linguistic practice. Coincidentally, the venomous associations of the word atheist, and that is it reductionist labelling, are a good reason work on gaining a positive identity (“brights” anyone? No I don’t like it either) rather than allowing everything you are to be captured in a word associated with the worst possible religious position (hell, at least the Hindus [still going to hell unles they are saved*] believe in gods!).

    By using pejorative labels, the survey biases the answers it gets. And not in a good way.

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